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Q&A with Joseph Coradino, CEO of PREIT

BY Michael Fickes

Joseph Coradino stepped up to the post of CEO at Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust in June of 2012. At the time, he had been with PREIT and a predecessor company for three decades. Since 2004, he had served as president of PREIT Services and PREIT-RUBIN. He had been a Trustee since 2006.

When the appointment was announced, Coradino evaluated PREIT’s business position. “We are operating from a position of strength today given the strides we have made in our development and redevelopment programs, diversifying our revenue streams and increasing occupancy and improving our margins,” he said.

His plan: keep moving forward. And he has. On the day of his appointment as CEO — June 7, 2012, PREIT stock opened at $12.27 per share. On October 25, 2013, about 16 months later, shares cost $18.99, an increase of nearly 55%.

Back in February of this year, the company declared a 12.5% increase in dividends per common share.

PREIT is on the move, and Coradino aims to keep it moving. The strategy as laid out in the 2012 annual report has four objectives:

  • Balance sheet improvement
  • Operational excellence
  • Elevating portfolio quality
  • Positioning for growth

The 2012 annual report describes progress toward each of those objectives. Recently, Chain Store Age asked Joseph Coradino if 2013 has kept pace with 2012. Here’s what he had to say.

Your 2012 annual report called 2012 “a year of tremendous transformation and accomplishment for PREIT” and looked to continue the momentum in 2013. Have you?
We absolutely have — we have a strong balance sheet, have continued to demonstrate stable operational performance, have improved the quality of our portfolio and have put ourselves in a position to be able to grow the platform.

Let’s talk about balance sheet improvements for 2013. Have you issued any securities this year? What did the proceeds go toward?
In May, we issued $230 million in common equity. We used the proceeds to pay down debt. We were one of the most highly leveraged companies in our sector, and it was a very high priority for us to change that.

What balance sheet ratios are you working to improve? What are the ratios now? What is your goal?
We are primarily concerned with our leverage ratio, defined by our banks as debt to gross asset value. As of the end of the second quarter, we were at 49.8%, the lowest since 2005. We hope to get into the low to mid 40s. But it has changed dramatically already. We used to say below 60 was the goal. Then we wanted to get to 50. So we’re happy to be talking about the prospects of the low 40s.

Let’s turn to your second strategic objective of operational improvements. In 2012, you brought a number of high quality retailers and restaurants — Apple and Grand Lux Café, for instance — to your properties. Have you been able to continue that?
This year has been a good year in that regard. We opened a lot of great stores.

We opened one of the first three Dynamite stores in the U.S. at Cherry Hill Mall, where we also signed Williams Sonoma.

At Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, Mich., our tenant roster continues to improve with a new H&M store opening at the end of October, a new Soma store and an Art of Shaving.

We opened a Francesca’s Collection and Teavana at Exton Square Mall — upgrades for the affluent shoppers in that area.

We are also looking forward to a new J.Crew Factory at Plymouth Meeting Mall.

What is your portfolio occupancy rate?
Through June, mall non-anchor occupancy was up 200 basis points to 89.6% over the prior June.

You have classified PREIT properties under three headings — premier, core growth and opportunistic. How is this helping you to elevate portfolio quality?
This has helped us do a number of things. Primarily it helps us illustrate the inherent quality of our portfolio to retailers and investors. We have been defined by our lower-productivity properties and wanted to start educating the public that those are few in number, and their contribution to our income stream is limited as well. It has also helped us internally think about how and where to focus our energy.

What are the criteria for moving a property into a non-core category and selling it?
We have primarily moved properties that have been a drag on our ability to lease space and renew tenants at our better properties. In other cases, we felt we would need to make significant capital investments to stay competitive, and we have simply felt that we really wanted to allocate to our better properties.

Has all this work positioned PREIT for growth?
Well, I like to say all the work we’ve been doing has put us at the starting line — so for the next year, we’re looking to ramp up our performance and start to grow our portfolio, both by delivering on organic opportunities and finding quality new properties to add to our portfolio.


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Kmart expanding online and in-store conveniences to Puerto Rico

BY Marianne Wilson

Hoffman Estates, Ill. — Kmart announced it is extending its integrated retail shopping strategy, which connects online and in-store shopping channels to provide more flexible ways to shop, to customers in Puerto Rico. For the first time this holiday season, Puerto Rico-based Kmart customers and Shop Your Way members will have access to online layaway, store-to-home shipping, free Anyone, Anywhere pickup and free store pickup.

The expansion coincides with the launch of a localized e-commerce channel that has been created within Kmart.com. The site also allows customers in Puerto Rico to enter their ZIP code and shop online at Kmart.com for a relevant assortment of products.

"Kmart strives to provide a seamless experience for our customers," said Dave Rodney, regional VP of Kmart Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. "We are excited to give our Shop Your Way members and customers in Puerto Rico access to new options that enhance the experience in-store and online."

Expanded in-store and online shopping amenities will bring added convenience to customers in Puerto Rico by giving more choices and additional ways to shop and save this holiday season. Customers will find new ways to plan holiday spending with online layaway, save time with store-to-home shipping and minimize unnecessary shipping costs with free Anyone, Anywhere pickup and free store pickup.


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Target online veteran to head up inRetail, new omni-channel retail agency

BY Marianne Wilson

San Jose, Calif. — Lance Thornswood, longtime general manager of user experience, e-commerce and creative for Target.com and interactive marketing, has been tapped to head up inRetail, a new division being launched by The Stephenz Group, one of Silicon Valley’s largest independent branding, marketing and digital agencies. The specialized division will address the growing consumer demand for omnichannel retail.

“Retailers have never had it tougher,” said Thornswood. “Consumers want everything to be connected, and they want a single, seamless experience from their tablet to their desktop to the aisles of your stores, where they’re pulling out smartphones to compare your products and prices to everybody else’s. inRetail is a powerful new ally. With our insider knowledge of the retail industry and our ability to do everything it takes, we’re set to help retailers thrive in the face of a massive retail revolution.”

Barbara Zenz, president and CEO of The Stephenz Group commented: “There aren’t many agencies out there today with both a proven track record in retail technology and the in-house retail expertise required to enable exceptional consumer experiences across all touch points. We’ve combined the services of a world-class digital agency, a creative studio, and that of an IT consulting firm with the unique talents of industry experts to deliver the kinds of services retailers need to stay ahead of the omnichannel curve. Lance has worked inside the walls of some of the world’s most admired retailers, and this unique inside-out expertise will drive inRetail and offer something missing in the market.”


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